Reading Challenges · Reading Tools

Journal Your Reading Like A Champ

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While some could argue that this blog in itself is a reading journal of sorts, I do keep an actual old-fashioned physically handwritten journal to document what I read as well. That journal is just one of many ways I keep track of my reading life and set goals/track progress for the year ahead. Plus it’s good for me!

I first started journaling in August 2016. I was spurred to start tracking my reading in a deeper way after finishing “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson and realizing that there were some great lines I wish I had written down (By the way- “I’ll Give You the Sun” was one of my Top 3 favorite books of 2016… A great little Y.A. novel!). This had been bothering me about my reading for awhile, and I’d wished there was a way to keep those great lines at my finger tips. In addition to that, I was getting ready to play catch up with the 2016 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge and had set a personal goal to read more books written by People of Color during the remainder of the year. A journal was the perfect solution to keep all of these tasks in one place!

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I chose to use a black leather journal Dan purchased for me after a trip to Disney World a few years ago. I’d been looking for a reason to start using this fun gift! I have since received two or three more journals as gifts that are waiting in the wings to become Reading Journals someday… (I believe the venn diagram of book lovers and journal/stationary lovers probably has quite a bit of overlap).

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The first thing I put in my journal was a checklist for my 2016 Reading Challenge (pretty straightforward) followed by a Reading Log for the year. The Reading Log also has a key and symbols indicating whether a book was read for Book Club or as a “Make Up Rager Book” (these are the books my book club read before I joined; I’m slowing reading the back log so I can get to 100% completion). I can quickly see at a glance which books I’ve read specifically for book club this year. I also started to track what format I read the book in (audio, kindle, etc.).

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For 2017, My Reading Challenge pages remained pretty much the same (other than my challenge being twice as large this year of course!). The Reading Log looks a little bit different. While I still track certain categories (book club, make up rager book, challenge book, up north audio book), I no longer go into details regarding the format I read the book in. I decided to incorporate that into the journal entries themselves.

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For the five months of 2016 that I kept a journal, the following categories were included in each entry:

  1. Book Title
  2. Author
  3. Date Published
  4. Genre
    • Both of breakdown of fiction/nonfiction and sub genres
  5. How I Discovered this Book
    • Short anecdote about how this book came into my life
  6. Date Started
  7. Date Finished
  8. Star Rating
    • On a scale of 1-5 but unlike Goodreads, half points are allowed
  9. Would I Recommend this Book
  10. Notes and Quote
    • This section is an area I hope to become more consistent with. For some books I do a great job of writing notes every few days to talk about my progress and thoughts throughout the reading process. This is also where I would record all those great lines as I come across them in the book. Too often though, I finish a book without writing as I go along, and so this section has become an area for final thoughts and excerpts I pull from the book’s “Quotes” section on Goodreads. This feels like cheating and like I’m missing out on the spirit of why I started a journal in the first place. Room for improvement here!

Once again, I changed things up with my journal entries for 2017. Always have to be improving the model right? In addition to the points above I added the following things to track:

  1. In addition to the name of the author, I now track their gender and race/ethnicity.
  2. In addition to the date published I also list the country the book was published in.
  3. I added a line to track if the book was a book club or challenge book and if so more details about that.
  4. I added a format category. If it’s a physical book I note whether it’s hardcover or paperback. I also note whether I purchased the book or used the library.

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Other sections in my journal include a list of my remaining make up rager books, and an area in the back for lists of books according to their rating. This is a great resource when I’m not sure how to rate a book. For example, I look at all the other books I’ve given 3 stars to and decided if I like the current book more or less than those and go from there. It’s helped me start to form an internal rating rubric, but consistency in my ratings is admittedly another area I’d like to get better at!

What else do you think could be tracked in a reading journal? If you journal, do you have any additional tips or ideas? What do you do with all the data at the end of the year? I can’t wait to show y’all what I did with my 2016 information, but that’s a blog post for another time… until then-

Off to the cupboard with you now, Chip. It’s past your bedtime. Goodnight, love…”

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